"When The New York Times says we should legalize marijuana, I think maybe I should re-evaluate my position," jokes Reason senior editor Jacob Sullum, who spoke with Reason TV about the remarkable evolution of national drug policy over the last 25 years.
During the "Just Say No!" years of the 1980s, less than a quarter of Americans supported the legalization of marijuana. Today, even presidential candidates eager to claim the legacy of drug warrior Ronald Reagan are relaxing their views on prohibition.
"When they repealed alcohol prohibition, it was left up to the states what to do with alcohol," says Sullum. "And so you have most of the Republican presidential candidates saying the federal government should not interfere if the states want to legalize. That's really an amazing development."
By contrast, progressives have been critics of the war on drugs, he says. It's only when marijuana becomes an industry, run by capitalists, that the left gets uneasy. Libertarians and progressives tend to spar over the nature of regulation of the drug business, not the need for or desirability of legalization itself.
In 2016, recreational marijuana reform may be on the ballot in nearly a dozen states and Sullum is optimistic. With support for recreational marijuana polling at a record-high 58 percent, it's only a question of how many states legalize in next year's elections.
Sullum believes that California, the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, is the best bet for passage and the most influential state in play. "There's a good shot it's going to pass. It's kind of surprising that California has not legalized marijuana by now," says Sullum, who is also the author of Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use, a nationally syndicated columnist, a drug-policy blogger at Forbes.
About 9 minutes. Produced and hosted by Todd Krainin. Thumbnail photo by Chuck Grimmett.
(The story was originally released on November 30, 2015.)